Joy


ya girl

I’ve been in Estes Park for about a week now, and I really really wish that I could say it’s been all laughs here in the mountains.

The truth is, it’s been challenging for my heart, mind, and strength to be here.

I stand by what I said in my last update; I really am, in the heart of my heart, excited to be here. There’s something about the mountains—about worshiping here, about the community here. In a short twenty years, I’ve experienced nothing quite like living in a place surrounded by mountains.

Colorado is exhilarating. It’s exciting, it’s pure, it’s wild. It’s somehow everything I never knew I needed, ya understand?

Despite all this, I’ve been depressed.

I’m learning though, that anything can be two things at once and be equally those two things. Let me explain.

To provide some background:

I’ve opened up about my mental health on Quirky Christianity before; I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t at war with my mind. More recently in my life, I’ve begun to deal with a lot of my past and subsequently the pain induced by my childhood. Once I started to deal with these issues, I genuinely started to get better. Really, I did. I admitted to myself hard truths, started reading hard books about healing, prayed more—and while I didn’t notice it always, anytime I reflected, I saw a change in myself, in my health, and in the way I saw the Lord and the world.

Dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression has never been an easy journey, and anyone who has ever experienced one of these knows that truth. Over the last year (from the time of my first Leadership Training to now), I’ve struggled intensely with my depression and anxiety, thankfully [and praise God], I haven’t had a panic attack in the last year, but it has continued to be a difficult battle to say the least.

But God and I—we do Hard things together.

Sometimes it feels like you can’t be a christian and have any mental health condition. Some people might condemn us for not having enough faith, or tell us we’re not praying enough.

I just don’t believe this is true.

Of course one can love the Lord and experience depression; saying the opposite isn’t much different than saying that one won’t experience trials and hardship after they accept Christ. It’s just not true.

In regard to experiencing two things equally at once—I love the Lord a lot, and I also feel depressed a lot.

The entirety of my time in Colorado, I’ve genuinely been depressed. It’s difficult to be here when part of you wants to be somewhere else. And honestly, I hardly even considered that returning back to the place where I started dealing with all the hard stuff could have been difficult. I don’t have hard feelings with CO or the Y, but to sit in the same places, to walk the same paths, to worship in the same places has really brought me back to that place I was in a year ago. And that’s really been hard for my heart.

I think there’s something really cool here though because in the midst of my depression, God has given me such joy.

Joy is really interesting. I don’t wanna get all definitions on you, and it could be cliche to spell this one out, but joy and happiness are two different things. Happiness is an expression—it’s a temporary feeling + emotion that lives in the mind. But joy is eternal. Joy resides in our spirits, it’s a fruit, it’s a gift, it’s a state of our heart.

And I’ve got a lot of joy.

But I’ve also got depression.

and sometimes that’s really hard to exist in, and to understand.

Like I said before; being in Colorado is exhilarating, and it’s beautiful, it’s wild—but at the same time, it’s hard, it’s challenging, and it really brings my heart into the pit of my stomach.

I’m excited though, and that hasn’t changed. I’m excited that I’ve reached a point in this healing process in which I can hear the worst news, or feel the worst pain, and just say “God, I will praise You despite myself, I will love You regardless of my feelings, and I will choose to believe that You are Good even when everything tells me You’re not.”

Friends, I really don’t believe that this excitement, that these words I can pray is a result of anything other than joy.

Whenever I share my testimony, my mental health is usually a large aspect of it, and my anxiety always tells me that it shouldn’t be, that it makes me less of a Christian, but I think more than anything that my mental health draws me closer to God. I’ve started to say and believe one of the largest truths of my faith is that God and I walk through Hard things together. And man is mental health hard.

If you’re struggling too, whether it be with your mind, mental health, or you’ve just been in a rut lately; let me share something with you.

Something that helps me a lot is asking myself what it looks like for me to be joyful in this moment. Don’t ask yourself what makes you happy—remember the difference (temporary vs. eternal). For me, sometimes joy looks like reading or writing. Sometimes it looks like reading a psalm of David and crying. Sometimes it looks like listening to a friend. Sometimes it looks like being silent before the Lord and resting in His promise in Lamentations 3:22, “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.”

It’s honestly weird to be joyful and depressed at the same time. I don’t think in the entire time that I’ve been a Christian that I’ve found myself just naturally turning to the Lord when I’m feeling low.

I got some of the worst news a few days ago—my best friend, my quirky cat, Sheldon went missing. I immediately felt silly for it, but I started crying uncontrollably. My entire heart sank into my stomach as I imagined my best pal out there alone, possibly even dead. I’ve always had an interesting relationship with my cat. He’s been a source of comfort and safety for me ever since I got him. Hearing that he could be gone forever broke my heart.

I don’t even remember having a second thought about it—but the first thing I did (in addition to crying) was pray. And I didn’t even think about it—it just happened naturally. Usually, my first instinct is to complain and cry about whatever is happening, but for the first time in a long time (maybe ever) I just really felt led to pray.

The day after this, my heart was heavy, but I kept drawing closer to the Lord and resting in that His Goodness will not change as my situation will. And that’s a hard prayer to rest into—God is Good all the time, not just when I’m doing great.

As my time here in Colorado continues, I look forward to many things. I’m excited to hike, to be a janitor, to serve people, to love people, and to continue to grow deeper into the Goodness of the Lord.

Thanks for reading.

Talk to you soon.

Grace and Peace.

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